Do you even Lyft?

August 15, 2017

Do you even Lyft…?

The potentially carbon neutral future of rideshare.


Have you ever considered how much pollution an individual generates driving from place to place? It would be quite difficult to implement a standardized method of tracking and reporting auto emissions generated by the 218 million or so drivers that we have in the United States, let alone each one’s driving style and vehicle model or age. However, the existing infrastructure used by rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft could provide a unique platform to track the emissions of a transportation method that serves over 15% of the population[1].

Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash


Presently, there are a few pioneers offsetting emissions generated by auto emissions (check out Enterprise Rent-A-Car if you’re interested in that). Unfortunately, these programs aren’t yet mainstream enough for the average American to even be aware of their existence. Finding resources to offset individual travel emissions requires a dedicated, specific search, something the majority of U.S.travellers simply don’t do. Since awareness is more than ½ the battle, a highly visible, manageable, and user-friendly option to offset travel emissions could be the solution.


One such potential solution for the thousands of miles driven each year in the U.S. by rideshare services could be a new type of software integration allowing riders to opt into carbon neutral trips. A rider could select the carbon neutral option when requesting a ride, and the app (with the vehicle information already integrated) could seamlessly track miles and emissions. Offsets could be purchased through local projects around a rider’s town (that’s what we’re doing at Urban Offsets). So, if such a partnership arises, who would end up paying for it?


Generally speaking, the user of the rideshare service is the one paying for the trip. The question is, would they be willing to shoulder an additional price burden to offset their emissions? Perhaps more importantly though, do they even care about offsetting those emissions? These questions and more seemed to plague our team here at Urban Offsets over the summer. To find some answers, we polled New York City residents about their interest in offsetting their rideshare travel emissions. Over a course of a week, 124 responses were logged*. Here’s what they had to say.


Question 1.


Notably, the first question found that of those who use rideshare services, the majority use Uber, with Lyft coming in third behind your standard yellow taxi (see figure 1). Notably, the poll was conducted after Yellow Cab launched their partnership with Curb and Via in June, 2017[2]. Could the addition of a carbon neutral option provide Lyft the boost it needs to zoom past the Standard Taxi?


Question 2.

The second question found that roughly 23% of respondents were either ‘somewhat’ or ‘extremely willing’ to pay extra for a carbon neutral ride. That being said, it’s clear that New Yorkers overwhelmingly feel negatively about shoulder yet another fee on top of the cost of their daily rideshare (see figure 2).


Question 3.

Clearly, New York City residents want to pay as little as possible on the additional cost of a carbon neutral ride, but how much value does carbon neutrality add? With the third question, we found that the average New Yorker felt that a carbon neutral ride was worth roughly 17-19% more than a standard ride with all else held equal (see figure 3).


Question 4.

The final question asked who would opt to use a rideshare service offering emissions offsets versus one that didn’t, assuming no additional cost to the user. We found that respondents were split fairly equally, with respondents seemingly polarized towards the two extremes (likely and not at all likely).  If we group columns 3 through 5 together (Moderately Likely to Extremely Likely), the data speaks to the majority of respondents being likely to use carbon neutral services.  To our surprise, a substantial percentage of respondents were indifferent to carbon neutrality in their rideshare service, even at no additional cost to them. Do these users not care about/not believe in climate change, do they dislike carbon offsets, or is there another reason altogether (what’s an offset, anyway)?  Well, stay tuned for another blog post in which we will further explore these questions. Regardless of those factors, it’s clear that New Yorkers are highly price-sensitive when it comes to their rideshare use, with carbon neutrality being one among many factors that lead them to choose their provider. Although there is a significant percentage of users who seem indifferent to carbon neutral services, there is still a substantial market out there for rideshare services to offer carbon neutral rides. Someone just needs to take advantage of it!


After reviewing all of our data, here are our takeaways:

  1. New York City residents are interested carbon neutral rides.
  2. They do not want to pay for those carbon neutral rides.
  3. The average New York City resident values a carbon neutral option at around $2.20

So, if riders aren’t interested in fronting the cost, will the rideshare service providers be interested? Carbon neutral rides could be integrated directly into the apps used by Uber and Lyft. Neither has offered an opportunity like this before, but with increased competition comes a strong incentive to offer new, cutting-edge products and services. With climate change becoming increasingly important to the public, offering carbon neutral rideshare services has the potential to give one of these providers a strong advantage over its competitors.


[1] Smith, Aaron. “Who in America uses ride-hailing apps like Uber or Lyft.” Pew Research Center, 19 May 2016,
*124 respondents self identified as NYC residents by zip code. Responses are part of a dataset incorporating 622 total responses from NY State zip codes. Poll was generated through Google Polls and run from 17 June to 20 June 2017.)